Carers Week 2012 – “In Sickness and In Health”
Fiona Phillips, Former GMTV presenter and Carers Week Ambassador
Carers Weeks is an annual awareness campaign which recognises and celebrates the contribution made by the UK’s 6.4 million unpaid carers to the people they care for and their communities.
Carers Week 2012 is being held between June 18-24, the event recognises the contribution made by carers in East Durham and throughout the UK who provide unpaid care for someone who is ill, frail or disabled.
This year, the theme is “in sickness and in health” – recognising the pressures people often face when caring for a loved one, at the detriment of their own health and wellbeing. We know that when carers go unsupported they can often suffer from ill health, poverty and social isolation.
Caring is exceptionally demanding, and it is important carers know they are not alone – even when they are shouldering a greater burden as a result of recent service cuts. It is important to use carers week to reach out to new or “hidden” carers, to those who say “I’m just being a husband, a wife, a dad, a son, a daughter, a friend or a good neighbour”
Caring is likely to touch everyone at some point in their lives. It is anticipated that the number of carers in the UK is likely to rise to 9 million by 2037 and every day another 6,000 people take on caring responsibilities.
According to research carried out by the Carers Week campaign group this year, 47% of unpaid carers said they were made ill by money worries and 45% said caring had pushed them into debt. While 625,000 people suffer mental and physical ill health as a direct consequence of the stress and physical demands of caring.
Carers save the UK economy over £119 billion per year; with the decision to care for someone often resulting in poverty. The demands of caring results in one in five carers being forced to give up work, affecting their income and future employment opportunities.
Despite the overwhelming contribution carers make to the economy, the main carer’s benefit is just £55.55 for a minimum of 35 hours. This equates to just £1.58 per hour, far short of the national minimum wage. However, caring is not a nine to five job, and 1.25 million people provide in excess of 50 hours care per week, and for many caring is 24/7.
In the North East over a quarter of a million people are carers. Funding and budget pressures have contributed to the restructuring of care services in East Durham. In the run up to Carers Week 2012 I met with Easington District Carers Support. They support over 1000 registered carers in Easington offering 1 to 1 support with carer support workers. They arrange activities and events to support carers and reduce social isolation, such as the Happy Mondays group which offers valuable respite for registered carers every Monday between 9am and noon.
They are an important lifeline for local families supporting people caring for loved ones.